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The Big Scioty Steven Harvey To get to The Old Growth Forest Trau we ride Georgia Highway 180, a steep and twisting road that winds behind Vogel Park and cuts through Slaughter Gap taking us deep into the Blood MountainWüderness. We head past Sosebee's Cove in the Coosa Bald Scenic area, a wildflower paradise located in a deep ravine, and pass Lake Winfield Scott, a chiUy gem on this brisk midwinter afternoon, staying on the highway until it dead ends at a high farm with grazing cattle. From there we foUow a series ofincreasingly narrower roads—Highway 60, Cooper's Creek, Grady-Grizzle, and, where the road turns to dirt, park along the margin, ready to walk. It is one of the last days in 1997. The younger chüdren, Alice and Sam, are with me, Alice wearing a new pair of binoculars around her neck, Sam dressed in a flannel shirt and jeans. Matt, my oldest son, is there too, down from graduate school in Baltimore for the holidays. Getting out of the car and putting on jackets, we look up the gravel road heading over a hiU into the gray trunks ofa Georgia hardwood forest. We've packed a lunch and are ready to make a day ofthis trip—ajourney into theVaUey ofthe Giants, the only spot in our region that stiU has old-growth trees. December is one of the best times to walk in the southern mountain woods. UsuaUy there is no snow, and it is stiU warm enough to get by with a light jacket or flannel shirt. Leaves are down so that the ridges of mountains , obscured in summer by a curtain ofgreen, can be seen undulating into the distance, a rumpled blanket of deepening shades ofblue visible behind gray and austere verticals of hardwood trunks. Most traüs in the mountains get narrower as they go, road giving way to gravel, gravel giving way to path, and the path becoming little more than a laurel-fringed rut running along ridge lines and mountaintops. Somehow 130 Steven Harvey131 we had left the directions to the site in the car, so we chose our way by memory, and foUowed a trau that descended into the woods toward Mark Helton Creek. The winter woods were quiet, no sound but our feet rustling through leaves and the rush ofthe creek below. We foUowed the creek for a half mile and came to a log bridge, one that we had to cross on our hands and knees. "I think that would have been written up in the directions," one of us said—probably Matt who has suffered through these outings with me before. I'm always getting lost, whether on foot or in the car. When I'm in a good mood I caU it my natural bent for discovery. UsuaUy, I grind my teeth. We forged ahead nonetheless, the creek bed turning increasingly narrow, the rumble ofthe creek itselfgrowing louder in the deepening chasm. Ourjourney was getting spooky, the way a trip down the wrong mountain path can. A song began to roU through my thoughts, punchy like the rhythm of our footsteps, droning like the sound of the river that has been digging a groove into this hiUside for eons. It was "The Big Scioty," a tune named for a winding river in the West Virginia-Ohio mountains. I had heard it from David Brose, a folklorist from Brasstown, North Carolina, who plays a sweet and eerie banjo. "The Big Scioty," he had explained one afternoon before picking it for me, "is a real twisty, narrow, dark river that's low.You have rock waUs on both sides. Craggy. Steep. Heavily glaciated."As I foUowed my kids down the narrowing path, the creek churning below us, the song wound through my thoughts like a litany: narrow, twisty, dark, low. At last Matt, who was heading up our little expedition, stopped and turned to speak to us. He was aU in blue: blue T-shirt, blue puUover sweater, and blue jeans. We came to a halt. "I think we're lost," he said at last. By now the river was a torrent of sound, a...


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